I want to ask you a question…
When you eat a delicious meal, and think about it later, do you remember how amazing the food tasted, or do you remember the design on the plates? Most people remember the food.
I enjoy it when food is served with a sense of presentation. For example, Sushi is often served with colorful drizzel and a sense of culinary beautification. There’s a momentary enjoyment in seeing the food looking so pretty… just before I eat it up. Sometimes I’ll even take a photo of a beautiful plate of food or nicely designed espresso.
Yet, ultimately those visual pleasures are fleeting. The longer lasting experience of eating a meal is in how the food tastes when you’re eating it… and how you feel later. Does the food taste good and make you feel great, or does it taste horrible and make you feel sick? These are much more important than presentation.
In fact, I think I’d rather have a delicious and nutritious meal on a plain plate than a not-so-tasty meal on a fancy plate.
Interpersonal relationships are like that. Most of us would rather spend time with someone who may look plain in appearance, but has a heart of gold and much to offer.
So, how does all this relate to website design?
Websites are like a meal we are serving. The food is the content (writings, photography, video) that we present on the site. The site design is like the table cloth and plates we’re serving the food on. We can have the fanciest website in the world, but if the content is lacking, people won’t stay for long or come back again. A fairly plain looking website may not look fancy, but could have very valuable content that people appreciate and return to regularly.
Of the top 100 websites in the United States, most of them have a fairly simple and modest design, yet offer high quality content.
A site should not be so ugly that it’s appearance detracts or distracts people from the content.
The website appearance, navigation, functionality, and general site structure should fade away into the background allowing the actual content to stand out. If you think about clothing, a website can fall into a few categories of appearance: (1) skateboard grunge, (2) business casual, or (3) a night at the Opera. I find that letting a website have a “business casual” look makes it comfortable to be with and easy to approach.
I’m a strong believer in creating websites that are simple, functional, and economical. Such website solutions allow the website owner and manager to focus on the content of their site rather than the style.
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of a world where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The colors of a website are like the colors of someone’s skin. They add something unique, but aren’t our focus of attention or the basis for our attraction and interest.
To borrow from Martin Luther King Jr., I would say, “I have a dream, that one day, websites will be judged not by the color of their pages, but by the character of their content.”
Life is a meal that isn’t about the plate, but about the food that’s on the plate.